The Mandarin orange, also known as the mandarin or mandarine (both lower-case), is a small citrus tree (Citrus reticulata) with fruit resembling other oranges. Some sources indicate that the original Japanese orange imported into North America became known as the "Mandarin orange" as a result of hostilities during World War II. Other sources indicate that they gained their names from the bright orange robes worn by the mandarins, public officials in imperial China. Mandarin oranges are usually eaten plain or in fruit salads. Specifically reddish-orange mandarin cultivars can be marketed as tangerines, but this is not a botanical classification. When exporting began, local Mandarin oranges were named after their port of origin.
The tree is more drought-tolerant than the fruit, The mandarin is tender, and is damaged easily by cold. It can be grown in tropical and subtropical areas.
The mandarin orange is a variety of the orange family. Cultivars and crosses between the original mandarin and other citrus fruits include:
The mandarin is easily peeled with the fingers, starting at the thick rind covering the depression at the top of the fruit, and can be easily split into even segments without squirting juice. This makes it convenient to eat, as utensils are not required to peel or cut the fruit.
Canned mandarin segments are peeled to remove the white pith prior to canning; otherwise, they turn bitter. Segments are peeled using a chemical process. First, the segments are scalded in hot water to loosen the skin; then they are bathed in a lye solution which digests the albedo and membranes. Finally, the segments undergo several rinses in plain water.